Old Settlers’ Burying Ground // 1674+

I know.. I know.. It’s not a building, but I couldn’t help myself but to find this hidden cemetery and take some photos! Tucked way off a street, across railroad tracks and down into a grove of trees, I came across this Colonial-era cemetery known as the Old Settlers’ Burying Ground. Established by 1674, it is the town’s oldest formal cemetery with gravestones dispersed, both standing up to the heavens and seemingly jutting out of the ground like crooked teeth. The Old Settlers’ Burying Ground contains approximately 196 stones and an estimated 230 burials. The stones in the cemetery reflect the continuum of headstone iconography popular from the 17th through 19th centuries, depicting winged death’s head, soul effigy, heart, hourglass, skeleton, and cherubs, to name a few. The cemetery is thought to possibly have unmarked graves of the colonists who were killed during the Lancaster Raid, the first in a series of five planned raids on English colonist towns during the winter of 1675 as part of King Philip’s War. Metacom, known by English colonists as King Philip, was a Wampanoag sachem involved in leading and organizing Wampanoag warriors during the war. The tension that led to these raids began from the decline in the fur trade due to overhunting, the decrease in the native population due to European-derived diseases, and the invasion of English livestock on native land. According to one estimate, at least fourteen Lancaster inhabitants died and twenty-three were captured and taken as prisoners, some of those 14 are likely buried here in unmarked graves.

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